Women’s issues Coverage in Media

The media is among the most influential sources of information, opinions, and new ideas, for most individuals worldwide. What is covered in the news, what is not covered, who is mentioned, what is disregarded, and how events and people are portrayed in the news media matter a lot. A study by Collins highlights that women’s issues are underrepresented in the media and that gender stereotypes are intense in the field (Collins 290-298). This research paper aims to compare past investigative work on women’s issues coverage in media to a nowadays situation. In the past, not only less females were seen, heard, or written about in the media, but also the portrayals of men and women were intensely unbalanced in all journalist content, including news, entertainment, advertisement messages, talk shows, and current affairs programs. Moreover, in current affairs programs and advertisements, females are younger than men and mostly are models. In the news, fewer women are portrayed in international or local politics, industries, and science field coverage, though females occur in the coverage of social issues more frequently than males. However, even though media news is still biased when it comes to gender, women issues coverage by media have changed significantly over time.

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How Women Issues Coverage in Media has Changed Over Time

Women’s exclusion from essential daily news has been witnessed throughout the history of media. For instance, Tuchman and Gaye in their article noted that, during the 18th century, suffragists and women’s rights activists in North America and Europe raised the concern of women exclusion from essential news of the day (Tuchman, Gaye 528-542). The first activists and the issue of women’s suffrage required the media attention to carry their activities and ideas to the broader public. Nevertheless, men-run magazines and newspapers massively ignored the women activist. The few media outlets that covered women’s activities trivialized their objectives and goals repeatedly. Not only were female leaders and women’s issues excluded from the media, but the bias against females was practiced in reporting. The main reason men-dominated media did not cover women’s activities was that men perceived it inappropriate for women to deviate from social norms of obedience and deference to male authority and the conventional role of mother and wife. 

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 In modern days, women organizations have established their own journals. Moreover, these organizations have also put a lot of effort into promoting and encouraging more females to be trained as journalists to deal with continuous patriarchal messages in advertising, television, and film programs. However, besides the efforts to change the women’s portrayal and the presentation of gender inequality issues in news media, mainstream media is characterized by women’s objectification. Research that was conducted by Bareket and his colleagues indicates that women are depicted in a sexual manner more frequently than men (Bareket et al. 28-49). Women mostly appear on media platforms dressed in skimpy clothes with facial expressions or body postures that express sexual readiness. Wesleyan Bareket and colleagues, in their research, found out that, in more than 58 different magazines, about 50% of advertisements present women as sex objects. Nevertheless, the media focus on women issues has improved from the past, even though sexual objectifying women in advertisements is a modern concern. While the number of women represented in the media has been increasing, the manner in which they are portrayed highlights stereotypical depictions that might be particularly harmful to the audience.

The Main Concerns of Journalists while Covering Women’s Issues

The concerns of journalists who covered women’s issues in the past have also changed over time. According to Van Zoonen and Liesbet, The main concern of the journalist who covered women issues in the past was the public perception of women’s position in society (Van Zoonen, Liesbet 33-34). Journalists who advocated for gender inequality risked being termed as misfits, insane, or unprofessional. Few female journalists that existed during those days could not advocate for gender equality because many women who demanded equality in social norms were depicted  as aggressive or militant. Though professionalism in the journalism field has been long reserved for men, more women are entering into the profession nowadays. Modern-day concerns for journalists who attempt to investigate or cover women’s issues are based on threats, including physical violence, intimidation, or even maunder. The research that was conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) indicates that 75% of women who work as a journalist are victims of threats, intimidation, and abuse in relation to their work (Collins, L 290-298). Even though male journalists experience the same challenges, research has shown that, when it comes to women reporters, harassment frequently takes particular gender-based forms such as sexual nature violence, sexual smears, and threats against their children (Luqiu, Rose 1-19). The journalists’ concerns while reporting on women’s issues have advanced from being termed as a traitor of the society in the past to more serious threats such as a death in modern days.

If to treat the above researches as historical documents, it is evident that individuals’ social realities have changed over time. Based on the articles by Tuchman and  Van Zoonen,  women in the past were second-class citizens, subjected to the males. Fastidious demand regarding the virtue and conduct that women were supposed to maintain was put on them, otherwise, females were judged accordingly. The appropriate guidelines for females dictated all aspects of their life including personality, family, and even dress-code. Women were required to be alert in home-keeping, constant in friendship, but not talkative. Generally, considering the past perception, women were created to serve men, and men always dictated how women should act. Women were also portrayed as homemakers, nonprofessionals, mothers, as well as sexual objects.

Nowadays, the situation has not changed much as women are being perceived as sex objects. In modern society, women are being identified by their body shapes, and their value is based on their appearances. For women to gain social acceptability, they remain under continuous pressure to enhance their appearances and bodies. In other words, women are being exploited by society and by media advertisements even in the product that has no relation to women, such as motorcar launching. Women are frequently objectified — typically by portraying them in provocative or scanty clothing. Young females are also sexually objectified in different ways as it is portrayed by their body positions, facial expressions among other factors. Though women’s perception has changed over time, women are still perceived as inferior to men.

How the Investigative Reporting On Women Issues has Changed Over Time

Investigative reporting means revealing the concealed issues either accidentally, under certain circumstances, and as a chaotic mass of facts, or by individuals in the media field who analyze all relevant facts to the issue in open source. In the 18th and 19th centuries, women’s issues, such as violence against women, were not sufficiently investigated by journalists. This is not only because the media was dominated by males but due to the fact that patriarchy was believed to be the traditional perception. Most women issues, such as gender violence, were perceived as a natural expression of men’s dominance. Due to these facts, the media never initiated women’s issues, but rather reported on them by means of short news once they acquired information from sources such as activist’s organization (Tuchman, Gaye 528-542). The journalists’ investigative content on women’s issues was also fashioned to portray men’s superiority. This was because most of the media content was aligned with the public interest to attract audiences’ massive attention. Physical abuse of women was depicted by media as a warning to other women on their behavior. This was in line with the society’s belief that since the male role was to rule in the society, both in a private household and public sphere, he was expected to have the power to reprimand everywhere. Most journalists never found the need for intensive investigative reporting on women’s issues. Women’s punishment, including physical chastisement, was perceived as a necessary duty for men, socially accepted in men’s circles.

In modern days, investigative reporting on women’s issues is still overlooked though it has improved. Most reporters who carry investigative reporting on women’s issues do it with limited budgets, hence they receive less recognition. Most media outlets and publications that explicitly focus on female issues are packed with relationship and fashion advice to women. Luqiu and colleagues, in their research, noted that, in those media outlets that attempt to investigate women’s rights issues, the investigative reporting content is characterized as slut-shaming and blaming of the victim (Luqiu, Rose 1-19). Most of them tend to show that the victims’ rights violation was due to their engaging with wrong people or being at certain places at the wrong time. In many articles, patriarchy is only quickly mentioned if it involves the famous and the rich. Most reporters who claim to do investigative reporting on women’s issues get their information from the police, some of which are distorted, especially if the violence against women is perpetrated by powerful people and they report it by blaming the victim and not the perpetrator. Through investigative reporting on women’s rights violations has improved over time, victim shaming and blaming are still a great concern.

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How Investigative Work Changed the Way Women’s Issues are Handled by the Media

The authors’ investigative work in the articles used in this paper is of great importance in transforming how both media and society handle women’s issues nowadays. Bareket and colleagues, in their investigative work on women objectification, have brought attention to the society and media to the problem of women being objectified. This has contributed to creating gender-transformative and gender-sensitive content by media, as well as breaking women stereotypes. The research has been used as evidence by civil societies in challenging convectional cultural and social norms regarding women perception both in media houses and content.

Luqiu and Luwei Rose and Collins provided researches on journalist challenges while reporting women’s issues to increase civil society and public awareness on these issues. Civil societies have used this research to convince legislatures on the importance of passing media shield laws. Such laws protect investigative journalists who report on women’s issues from being forced to provide confidential sources to the police or any law enforcer. By bringing the attention of journalist challenges while investigating women’s issues to the public, the government and civil society ensure the security of the journalists to promote media freedom. In the research on issues challenging reporters while reporting and investigating women issues, Van Zoonen and Liesbet provided great implications on how women issues are handled. The research has sensitized the government and media industry on the insecurity issues that journalists experience while reporting on women’s issues. This has led the media industry to prioritize media workers’ safety, especially those investigating women’s issues.

     By exposing women’s historical exclusion on important news and the causes of this exclusion, Tuchman and Gaye have motivated civil society to promote and support more females to study journalism with the aim to counter this exclusion. The increasing number of women in journalism has brought a significant improvement in media coverage on women’s issues. The research also served as an eye-opener for females to begin their own media houses to counter male-dominated media houses that ignored women’s issues in their news. Investigative work has transformed how women’s issues are handled by bringing the issues to government, civil societies, and the entire public.

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In conclusion, women’s issues coverage in media has changed significantly over time. In the past, women’s issues were extremely excluded from important news by the media houses. The media industry was dominated by the male who perceived women’s issue, such as gender violence, to be a social norm that is unnecessary to report. This motivated women to establish their media houses that will focus on their issues. Before then, women were under-represented in the entire media settings. Moreover, when women’s issues were highlighted, it was often in a negative and circumscribed manner. 

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In modern days, media focuses on fashion and relationships as the main women’s issues, while ignoring issues concerning women’s rights. Women’s objectification by media also has become a modern concern. The journalists did not sufficiently investigate women’s issues, such as violence against women, in the past due to media dominated by men and the traditional perception of patriarchy as natural. The investigative reporting on women’s issues in modern days is characterized by slut-shaming and blaming the victim. However, researchers’ investigative work has greatly transformed how both media and society handle women’s issues.

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